Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Samsung’s choice of components and implementation of Android 4.2.2 make summarizing the Galaxy S 4’s performance easy. Quite simply, overall, this is the fastest smartphone we have tested to date. The Snapdragon 600 SoC at the heart of the Galaxy S 4 put up the best scores we have seen in the majority of our benchmark tests and during real-world use, the phone was fluid and snappy. Our experience using the Galaxy S 4 for the past week or so has been among the best we’ve had with any smartphone.
The full HD screen on the Galaxy S 4 was also very nice and despite the phone’s high-performance, battery life was good.
The S 4 has some obvious physical similarities to the Galaxy S III, which most consumers may not care about. On the plus side, you can tell the S 4 is a Samsung device from across the room and users that are already familiar with the S III will be immediately comfortable with much of what the S 4 has the offer. The downside is that many of the complaints about the S III, like its flimsy plastic back cover and seams around its edges, among others, apply to the Galaxy S 4 as well. Samsung has improved the rigidity of the S 4, however, and tightened the tolerances around the buttons and seams, which will improve the durability of the device.
On the software front, Samsung has put a ton of work into differentiating Touchwiz from competing experiences. Android purists would probably prefer fewer modifications to the stock interface, but the additional features offered by Touchwiz are too numerous to dismiss. Gesture controls, easier to use camera modes, multi-window support, screen-mirroring, and Smart Stay and scrolling are all welcome additions in our book. Whether you like or even appreciate Touchwiz, it’s clear that Samsung is trying to innovate on the software front as well.
The Galaxy S 4 is going to be available from every major carrier in the US over the course of the next few days (Sprint, T-Mobile) or weeks (AT&T, Verizon), with prices for the 16GB model starting at around $149 and increasing to about $249, depending on the carrier and contract terms. That puts the Galaxy S 4’s price in-line with other high-profile, high-performance Android-based devices, but also makes it relatively expensive in light of recently discounted, but still great devices like Samsung’s own Galaxy S III or the HTC One X. The GS4's pricing is on par with other high-end smartphones, however.
In the end, the Galaxy S 4 is easily Samsung’s best smartphone to date. Not only does it offer better performance and many new features over the previous generation, but Samsung has improved the user experience as well. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 deserves serious consideration, regardless of whether or not you're an Android or iOS user currently.